30 June 2005

The web weaves...

Have you ever really needed something to happen, really needed it? Yeah, me too. It just did. Nah, no details. But the pattern being woven in the world does respond to need, and that is a good thing to know.

Inquire Further

28 June 2005


Well, it's happened again. Every few years, I start wondering if I'm still gluten intolerant... Invariably, as soon as I start wondering, something happens to give me accidental gluten poisoning and remind me that, yes, it is permanent. It was Sunday at noon, when I get together with my family and we 'have family dinner' (i.e. pick a restaurant and eat together). My stomach bothered me a little bit afterwards... I had wondered if there had been some flour in the spice mix on my fish. On Monday, I did not want to wake up (admittedly I had been up late the night before) and felt like someone had been using my head as a drum set.

I did make a helpful discovery this time. I found that the fatigue recedes if I have a large, healthy, gluten free meal. Of course, I generally have to talk myself into it, because my stomach isn't happy about the dose of gluten it got. Last time this happened, it took about three days for all the symptoms to go away. Which means that tomorrow or Thursday I ought to feel like I'm actually awake again. Actually, it's not too bad right now, but I'm still more tired than I ought to be.

What the gluten does in those of us with celiac disease is cause the immune system to attack the villi in the intestine. These villi are what allows us to absorb nutrients from food. When they're damaged, well, food doesn't get processed correctly. So reduced food absorption = reduced energy = me wanting to sleep all day.

Inquire Further

24 June 2005

History in the movies...

I saw an interesting show called And Starring Pancho Villa as himself. The part that I know is true: A film company made a deal with Pancho Villa to film his revolution. Apparently this film, The Life of Pancho Villa, is now lost. Which makes me wonder what source material they used for this new movie.

Reservations about accuracy aside, it was quite enjoyable. A naive back east film crew is sent down to Mexico for the culture shock of their lives... Alan Arkin gives a very entertaining performance as a Jewish hired gun. Antonio Banderas is absolutely believable as Pancho Villa. Eion Bailey plays the naive movie mogul perfectly (and, no, I'd never heard of him either). All in all, very entertaining and well done.

I did think there was more foul language than necessary, but I suspect that was partly to ram home the culture shock. Also, there was a small amount of pointless nudity that didn't further the plot. As it was an HBO production, perhaps they felt they were obligated to provide language and nudity to their audience.

Inquire Further

20 June 2005

Tales of the Sword

Last summer I started taking lessons in the Cheng Man Ching Taiji sword form. It has been quite enjoyable, as well as quite a challenge. I took to it more quickly than many of my classmates, perhaps because I have some experience with olympic style foil-fencing. But carrying a sword around town, even a wooden one, does tend to draw a bit of attention. ;-)

One time I rode the bus around campus with the sword tucked into the top strap of my backpack. I got some odd looks, and one person was brave enough to ask "Are you in drama?" I just grinned and said "Nope. Sword form practice."

Another time I was practicing at Alameda Park, and as always I began with some meditation. That day I chose seated meditation, in lotus. An older guy and a younger one, probably the older one's grandson, were in the playground area. The older one said, "I don't know why people do that yoga sh*t," in a voice obviously meant to carry. I finished my meditation, skipped over a few warmup exercises and went straight into the sword form. Didn't hear another peep from the old guy.

Just recently I was walking back from the same park and I cut through the alley behind my house to get home. Some kids were playing in a camper. One said "Hi," so I said "Hi." Then as I was going past, I heard a startled "Whooah!" :-D I expect that they noticed the wooden practice sword strapped to my back. I had a similar experience today at Reed Gym: a kid's eyes got wide when he noticed the sword, and he said, "Nice sword!" I just said, "Thanks!"

This tale isn't directly related to sword form, but this is as good a place as any to put it. While I was practicing at Ammon Park, I noticed a black cat playing in some of the taller grass. As I was getting ready to leave, I saw the cat again, hiding in the tall grass. I approached the cat's position slowly, knelt down a few feet away, and said "Hey, kitty-cat!" The cat gave me a horrified look that clearly said, "You can see me?!??" and took off as fast as it could. Ah well.

Inquire Further

19 June 2005


It's funny the things you think about when you're trying not to think about something else...

I sat next to a flower bed, improbably surrounded by concrete and asphalt. There were marigolds, petunias, and a pretty red columbine that for some reason I greeted as an old friend. It asked that I not steal any of its petals, like I used to do when I was a kid. I was disappointed but obliged. I watched birds flit around the overhang that sheltered the sidewalk. It is shingled in red and gray clay tiles, and every eight feet or so a light sticks through an opening. The birds were perched on the ledges below the lights, enjoying a respite from the sun. Most of them were house sparrows, or plurbs (parking lot birds) as I call them. There was one I wasn't sure of. It might have been a female house sparrow, but it was leaner than most that I've seen. Its call was different as well. My best guess is that it was a female housefinch, but I can't recall ever seeing a male housefinch around there.

For something to do, I dug up handfuls of soil from the flower bed and crushed them into a fine powder. The top of the dirt was dry, but a half-inch below it became moist and warm. I picked up a small rock, just to look at it, and hastily dropped it when a small spider began speeding over it. Presumably it had been sheltering under the rock, and I disturbed it. I'm not sure what kind of spider it was, but it survived my mishandling. I watched for several minutes as it climbed back into the flower bed and found another shelter.

I noticed a small piece of a butterfly's wing sticking out of the soil, and dug it out, releasing it to the wind. A small dust devil blew a plastic WinCo sack around in circles and figure-eights, eventually taking it down a small flight of stairs and out of my vision. Red petals of columbine flowers past littered the soil below my old friend. And I thought, soon these flowers will fade and die, and their bodies will decompose to help others of their kind eke out their moment in the sun. The dust-devil was temporary and died out before I left. Nothing in this world is permanent. It all fades away. And this is as it should be. Our responsibility is to take care of "our" piece of the world while we're here so that our successors may have a pleasant stay. As the Taoists say: "How can anyone who might not wake up in the morning consider herself important?"

Some would say this is a gloomy outlook. It's not. When you have looked into the face of death, you are free. Tomorrow I may die, so today I do the things that need to be done. Currently, that is to get and keep my house in some semblance of order to make things easier for those who may have to sort through my worldly possessions. Life is like a hotel. You check in, you check out. Hopefully you don't leave the maids with very much to do.

As a final thought... Is anything permanent? Tao, certainly. Yet Tao, too, changes, and in changing, it does not change. That's the beauty of it.

Inquire Further

17 June 2005

Cool stuff at the Pine Ridge Mall? Who would have thought?!

So my mom and I wandered the local mall this afternoon. Mainly I think she wanted a reason, any reason, not to go home just yet, so I obliged. Mostly it was same ol', same ol'. For no particular reason, I wandered into the Nook and Cranny. It's a collection of booths that people can rent to sell their stuff (and not have to be there the whole time to keep an eye on it). Usually, it's pretty boring, unless you're into antler lamps, painted wooden signs and furniture (usually sized for children), and candles. Today there was a 'new' booth. New since Christmas, anyway. It had sheet music for Native American flute, as well as a good selection of Native American flute CD's. I bought one book of sheet music and one CD—I wanted to buy more, but I also didn't want to go broke. The booth also had some flutes for sale... I've only got two... *forcibly restrains herself from going back*

Even better, the guy who ran the booth left some cards, and he gives lessons in Native American flute! I'll have to contact him and find out his rates and times, but I would really like to get better at playing. I can pick out some melodies, and I play around a bit, but I'm not very good. I'd like to be. :-)

Inquire Further

16 June 2005

Babylon 5

Well, today I acquired the second season of Babylon 5. I've seen most of the later episodes, but not many of the early ones. The thing that I like about B5 is that it's got a continuing plotline through all the episodes. Each episode will have its own focus and storyline, but parts of it will relate to the overall story arc.

However, I must admit that the first episode of Season 2 was horribly written. Redundancies, awkward lines, heavyhanded character development... The most amusing redundancy was when Captain Sheridan indicated that he was going to take a shower before meeting the rest of the crew. A logical response would be: "Enjoy your shower, Captain. I'll see you on the bridge." Instead, Ivanova made an excuse to leave and whatever the excuse was would take her twenty minutes, at which point she would meet the captain on the bridge. Obvious case of the writer not knowing how to end a scene. Also, the plot was poorly structured. Five minutes of Sheridan reminiscing vs. two minutes for the 'climactic' lack-of-battle-scene.

The second episode was much better. Some of the foreshadowing was still heavyhanded, but there was a natural flow and a sense of urgency throughout. Still, J. M. Straczynski, or however you spell that, needs to work on subtlety as a writing skill. I don't remember the latter seasons suffering as much from heavyhandedness, so either he improved or someone else started doing the writing. Or possibly I wasn't as picky when I was watching them. :-) Anyway, I'm enjoying the episodes.

An observation about myself: I analyze plot structure the most when the writing is poor. When the writing is good, I'm too busy enjoying myself to analyze much of it.

Inquire Further

15 June 2005

Fishing Trip

I finally got to go fishing this year. Mostly good weather, pretty good fishing (right up until the wind came up and wouldn't quit). It was just me and my dad. Seemed lonely without Scamp, but last summer it was lonely with him there--no energy. Scamp was the ultimate fishing dog in his prime; if we missed a bite, we could count on Scamp seeing it. Last summer, he just curled up and slept in the boat. May he rest in peace.

I drove the boat from the dock to an area covered in willows. Nearly ruined the propellor when the water shallowed more quickly than I was expecting, but I got her in all right. Weather was good for fishing that afternoon, but a pretty bad storm came up in the evening. Dad went out once more while I hiked around, but he came back pretty quickly when the thunder started up again. It was a wet, stormy night. However, this was an improvement over the last trip to Littlewood Reservoir. Then the wind blew all night, 30 mph with 50 mph gusts. Very annoying when you're in a tent.

Next morning, there was the pancake fiasco. I'm gluten-intolerant, so I insisted on being the one to bring the pancake mix, as I actually wanted to be able to eat pancakes. For some reason, Dad decided this meant that I would also bring a bowl to mix up said pancakes. Luckily, I had an extra 1-Liter water bottle and a pair of scissors. Then I realized that I had forgotten to bring any real maple syrup (non-real almost always contains caramel color, which is often made from wheat), so I put mandarin orange segements on my pancakes instead. By this time, my hands were freezing, so I stayed to take the camp down rather than going out fishing right away. I also practiced some taiji meditation and the short form. It's so nice to practice taiji outdoors!

I went out fishing again late midmorning, caught one, and then the wind came up and up and up... so we took the boat back and headed home. Which is where I made my fatal mistake. I asked my dad a question. In my family, we have a saying: "Don't ask Dad any questions, in case he tries to answer them." It seemed innocent enough. He seemed to be having trouble reading the road signs, so I asked him when he'd had his eyes checked last. I never got an answer to that. Instead, I got an off-and on diatribe about how his family and my mom were to blame for his eye trouble, and he had 'almost worked through what they'd done to him' so he might go get his eyes checked sometime soon. He also explained how his mother had been a "dysfuntional human being" and had tried to destroy his personality. (I didn't care for his mother/my grandmother, but I don't think she was quite as bad as my dad claims) I don't know where my dad gets his pseudo-psychiatric babble, but I really, really don't like listening to it. Especially not when I'm trapped in the cab of a pickup with him, and it's another hour until we get home.

On the bright side, it wasn't as bad as his outburst of last June... Remind me never, ever to ask him another question...

Inquire Further